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Desert Companion

Talk hard die free

If cell phones are outlawed in cars, only outlaws will play Angry Birds while merging in the Spaghetti Bowl

News item: On Oct. 1, a new state law goes into effect that bans talking on a cell phone or texting while driving. Some Nevadans are already on the defensive.

Officer, I am an innocent man. I wasn’t talking on my phone while driving just now, that’s ridiculous, REO Speedwagon was on the radio — you don’t talk over REO. Meanwhile, I’m supposed to believe that out of all the cars on the road, you happen to pull over the guy with the rubber antlers on the hood? Okay, I may have been talking, sure, but not to anyone, I was just orating — publicly — with my phone in my gearstick hand. Once I tune into my own stream of consciousness and begin broadcasting, it’s incredibly difficult to turn it off, much like “America’s Got Talent.” Here I was cruising along, greeted by my city’s palm trees, pimps and pleather upholstery as I went. The sunshine is glimmering in the golden hose-spray rising off virgin sidewalks; it’s like the city was speaking right to me — I can hear the symphony of electrophone jingles inside the casinos and suddenly I’m crying out, Good morning Las Vegas! But the jingles I heard turned out to be your siren.

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Was I also playing iPhone Tetris at the time? That’s a personal question, officer, and I’m afraid the NASA pajamas I’m wearing right now are prejudicial.


Wow, you really pulled me over, huh? Just minutes ago, I was on top of the world. I saw a double rainbow, officer, a double complete rainbow. It was so intense, traffic was backed up by the Mirage where they were warming up the fountains and lights for a big day of volcanic homage, and there it was in the mist, so I took out my phone and got a video. At 0:38, you see a woman walk by wearing a tube-dress upside-down, I swear she’s drinking a latte and has no idea — she just thinks the dress is nice and snug. A little further down, I see an entire family out strolling in Vibram Five Fingers — Mom, Dad, teen son, tween girl, not even exercising, but on their way to a buffet — it’s Vibram Forty Fingers. This is massive. It’s as rare as a Segway tour-group sighting was back 10 years ago, so I angle for a TwitPic while I roll in neutral for a second, and I’m uploading it to Twitter while trying on virtual hairstyles and playing Angry Birds when you creep up, with your “hands-free” radio and government-issue decals, and pull me over.


Did you know that you just sidelined 173 Twitter followers? This is holding back the #WWBobSagetDo hashtag I just invented. Sir, I may have “liked” taco trucks on Facebook  at the time in question — but who can prove I really like them? They’re too small, you accidentally get bites of paper plate, it can’t have been me.


This isn’t the West I know, being shaken down over an innocent Instagramming at the helm of a sedan. My grandfather would balk at our “liberties” today. A frontiersman, he and his friend used to parade up and down the Strip in twin Comets driving level, connected by two tin cans and a piece of string. They would chat about the rise and fall of the Flamingo hotel, and the ins and outs of tapered slacks while they drove, and were they ever stopped? No. They and their pastel polyester desert-wear cruised on into old age with the top down and boxy wrap-around sunglasses fitted over their spectacles and never did they have to withhold a witty aside or pickle joke from their friend while driving — for it was a simpler age. Telephones weighed as much as motorcycle helmets, for one thing, and cans suffered debilitating loss of service from time to time, but men were free. They could talk, banter, harangue, titter, howl, Tweet, Digg, poke, Kazaam and Google from their vehicles unmolested by the nanny state, just them and the open road, and a pair of fake antlers on the hood. 

Australian-born writer Janet Manley shares an affinity with America’s West for desert and scratchy bushes.

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